Those seeking an authentic Australian experience should look no further than South East Queensland. Brisbane, the state capital and third most populous city in Australia, perfectly blends the vibrant trappings of a cosmopolitan city with a characteristic laid-back attitude. Seen previously as something of an overgrown country town, the city has truly stepped into the 21st century and now boasts a fantastic assortment of restaurants, cafes, galleries and museums - as well as an exciting live music scene - all without compromising its easy-going roots.
The Gold Coast is a major tourist destination some 50 miles south of Brisbane, boasting 35 beaches and some of the most sought-after surf breaks in the world. It also contains the area's prime entertainment and nightlife centre, as well as various theme parks including Warner Bros. Movie World. However, don't fall into the trap of writing the Gold Coast off as a single-minded tourism town; it also features a fascinating canal system and nearby rainforest hinterland. Overall, it's fair to say that the Gold Coast deals in a sheer sense of excitement.
North of Brisbane lies the Sunshine Coast, something of an alternative to its bustling southern cousins. Although by no means a sleepy region, its close proximity to various national parks and the renowned Australia Zoo (made famous by the late Steve Irwin) make it the ideal destination for those after more rural or natural pursuits, while maintaining the coastal delights and vibrant atmosphere which make holidays to the Queensland coast so enduringly popular.
Autumn and spring are the best seasons to see Brisbane, especially for Northern Hemisphere visitors who may be unused to the extreme highs of summer. The months of September and October also coincide with the flowering of the beautiful Jacaranda trees, coating the area in a stunning purple hue.
Brisbane's South Bank Parklands are perhaps its most beloved attraction, a sprawling riverside area containing gorgeous walking and cycling routes, various shopping and dining establishments, and even an inner-city beach. Additionally, the city's beauty can be more fully appreciated via a cruise along its lazily winding river. From a cultural point of view, there is no better place to start than the fittingly-named Queensland Culture Centre, a huge complex featuring three museums, a library, and a theatrical venue. The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art lies not a stone's throw away.
The Gold Coast can rightfully be considered the region's entertainment hub. Five theme parks - including Wet'n'Wild and Warner Bros. Movie World - exist alongside a bustling shopping district, while keen surfers should seek out The Spit and Mermaid Beach to catch the best waves. Those visiting the Sunshine Coast should regard the nearby Australia Zoo as a must-see attraction, given its status as a winner of the Australian Tourism Award.
The region prides itself upon exquisite seafood and steak options, owing much to the fertile farmlands and expansive ocean surrounding it. Queensland's warm climate means that you're likely to enjoy a lot of meals al fresco, from award-winning beef to world-class seafood. The state's diversity and size allows for a range of prime local produce, as well as an abundance of wineries and vineyards. Particularly recommended is Brisbane's extensive selection of quality cafes.
Brisbane maintains an intimate atmosphere despite its size, and is particularly renowned for its thriving local music scene. Venus such as The Jubilee, Ric's Cafe and The Zoo provide friendly atmospheres and quality live music in a casual setting. Traditional Irish pubs are particularly popular, with bars such as O'Malleys and Irish Murphy's further highlighting the city's welcoming feel, while those after a trendy clubbing experience will fit right in at GPO, Cloudland, or Monastry.
The Gold Coast plays host to the famous Surfer's Paradise, a renowned party district for visitors who enjoy a wild night on the town. Shamelessly glitzy and stimulating, the suburb is a web of clubs, bars, beer gardens and more - each guaranteed to provide you with an unforgettable evening. The Sunshine Coast offers a variety of nightclubs and wineries, but is perhaps most known for the Noosa region's swanky bars - perfect for travellers in search of adventure or relaxation.
It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct travel insurance and vaccinations and / or special medication for your destination. Please consult your GP for advice at least one month ahead of travel. It is essential that you meet the visa and passport requirements for your chosen destination. Visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (http://www.fco.gov.uk) website for up to date entry requirements listed by country.